Umpire Wally Bell dies at age 48

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Sad news coming out of Ohio on Monday night: Wally Bell, who just finished working the Cardinals-Pirates NLDS series last week, has passed away of an apparent heart attack, according to the Youngtown Vindicator.

“One on my dearest friends,” fellow umpire John Hirschbeck told Youngstown’s WFMJ. “We worked together for 11 years. He was like to a son to me, my wife Denise, very dear friend. It’s devastating. Wally was one of the first to call me and congratulate me on working the World Series.”

Bell had spent 21 years as a major league ump, handling one World Series, four LCSs and seven LDSs. According to his MLB.com bio, his proudest moment as a major league ump was returning to the field following open heart surgery in 1999.

“All of us at Major League Baseball are in mourning tonight regarding the sudden passing of Wally Bell,” said commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. “I always enjoyed seeing Wally, who was a terrific umpire and such an impressive young man. On behalf of our 30 clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Wally’s family, fellow umpires and his many friends throughout the game.”

Bell was behind the plate for Game 2 of last week’s NLDS game in St. Louis, a 6-1 win for the Pirates. He was never involved in any major controversies, which alone suggests he did his job pretty well.

According to Wikipedia, he leaves behind two children.

Noah Syndergaard scratched with a “tired arm”

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Mets manager Terry Collins says that he has scratched Noah Syndergaard, who was supposed to start this afternoon’s game against the Braves. In his place will go Matt Harvey.

Syndergaard, Collins says, has “tired arm.” But also says he has some discomfort in his right biceps. He will have an MRI, but Syndergaard says it’s not serious and that he could pitch as soon as Sunday. Collins says this is an abundance-of-caution type thing, saying “we can’t take a chance on this guy.” Which is true.

The Mets ace is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings. He has walked no one this year. Not a soul.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.